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MORTON GROVE, Ill. (STMW) - A man allegedly fired a pellet rifle at a mosque in the northern suburb of Morton Grove Friday night while 500 people prayed inside.
The shooting happened while worshippers were celebrating the holy month of Ramadan at the Muslim Eduction Center, 8601 N. Menard Avenue, about 9:20 p.m., according to police and mosque officials.
Off-duty Chicago Police officers, who been hired to provide additional security at the mosque during Ramadan activities, called Morton Grove police after they saw an object whiz by and hit the building just above the head of one of the officers, according to Kamran Hussain, Vice President of the Muslim Community Center of Chicago, which owns the mosque.
Though the damage to the building was minor, there were about 500 people inside the mosque for prayers at the time of the shooting, Hussain said, adding that many kids from the congregation were outside of the building during the service.
Morton Grove Chief of Police Mark Erickson said police were investigating the incident, though he could not confirm whether or not someone was in custody.
Erickson said the weapon involved was a pellet rifle.
One of the security guards saw someone firing the gun, with the shots coming from the home of a man who had previously spoken out against expansion of the school and mosque, Hussain said.
The man’s home abuts the mosque parking lot, which has been cause for a number of disputes between the building’s owners and the neighbor, Hussain said. He has lived there for about 12 years.
“He’s always been a thorn in our side,” Hussain said.
Hussain said gun used in the shooting was described as a rifle-type gun with a scope attached.
Morton Grove police and members of the FBI examined the building Saturday morning as the scene of a possible hate crime, according to a release about the incident from the Chicago office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Hussain said this was not the first time parts of the building have been damaged, but it was the first time mosque officials had reported it to police. Erickson said the additional incidents — described as broken windows — were part of the current investigation.
Morton Grove police contacted the State’s Attorney’s office early Saturday morning, Erickson said.
An FBI spokeswoman said there was no information about the incident Saturday evening.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations’ national headquarters issued a community safety advisory for mosques earlier this week following crimes targeting Muslims in Missouri and Rhode Island, as well as the mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.
The mosque will continue to have additional security for the rest of the Ramadan month, Hussain said.
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